Wednesday, May 2, 2012

995. Gwoemul/The Host (2006)

Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho
Written By: Baek Chul-hyun, Bong Joon-ho, Ha Won-jun
Main Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byeon Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona, Ko Ah-seong
Click here to view the trailer


As Seven Shadows trucks along, I take the opportunity to pull myself one film closer to my short-term goal of 501 movies watched and the halfway mark. Today, I turn to the streaming portion of Netflix and a Korean monster movie, in the vein of "Godzilla" - "The Host".

The film starts out in 1998, as a Korean lab technician working at a U.S. military base is ordered to pour hundreds of bottles of toxic chemicals down the drain. Though the lab technician warns his superior that, if poured down the drain, the chemicals will go directly to the Han River. The superior doesn't care and the lab technician does as instructed. Four years later, two men fishing in the Han River, spot a mysterious creature swimming along. They point it out to each other and watch as it swims away, wondering how many tails it has. Years later, we reach present day and our story picks up steam as we settle on a snack bar, owned by Hee-bong (Byeon Hee-bong), an elderly gentleman who loves his family. In addition to Hee-bong, his son, Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) also helps his father operate the snack bar, usually falling asleep on the counter and stealing a squid leg when no one's looking. Gang-du is irresponsible, but looks forward to his daughter's arrival home from school each day. He loves his daughter, Hyun-seo (Ko Ah-seong) and they do everything together, including drink beer (although she is underage). However, all that seems well, isn't. When Gang-du and a group of onlookers spot a very large, mysterious creature swimming around the Han River, they initially write it off as an Amazonian dolphin. However, they're sadly mistaken as the giant creature leaps from the water, chasing down the group of gatherers, killing many and swooping up Gang-du's daughter in the anarchy. When Hyun-seo is thought dead, her family mourns her loss, but their mourning is cut short when the government steps in and quarantines anyone who came into contact with the monster. While awaiting tests in a hospital, Gang-du receives a cell phone call from Hyun-seo, revealing that she isn't dead. Now, Gang-du, along with his father, brother and sister must escape the hospital and go looking for Hyun-seo.

Horror films have always been hit and miss with me. When I sit down to watch one, I'm either going to praise it for being well-made and like it, praise it for being lots of fun and like it or just hate it altogether. There are a lot of horror films that, while not technically anything to write home about, are a lot of fun when you're watching them with a significant other or a group of friends and you can give them a free pass for, at least, giving you a good time at the movies. "The Host" falls under both categories, as it is technically very well made and on top of that, is a lot of fun, especially as I watched it with my wife, on our day off, in our dark bedroom, this afternoon. The first thing that struck me about "The Host" is how well it looked, aesthetically. An early shot of a man committing suicide by jumping off a bridge is quite striking, as we watch his limp body fall into the river below, as streaks of rain cross the screen and a dark sky looms in the background.


Fast forward to the ending and we get even more beautiful imagery, as a checmical, "agent yellow", is used as a way to destroy the monster and anyone carrying the non-existent virus. The release of the chemical dusts the entire climax in a smoky, dusty, ashen look and makes our everyday people, in a chase to find their loved one, look like superheroes. Speaking of the ending and everyday people becoming superheroes, that's exactly how the end of this film made me feel, as I watched Hyun-seo's father, aunt and uncle use various weapons to bring this monster to his knees, to avenge the death of their little Hyun-seo.

In the negative column for this film, I'd add the aspect of the film being both a horror and a comedy. It just didn't mix as well as in films like "Shaun of the Dead (which the book cites as being like this one), where the comedy was prevalent and the horror was real, but not as important. Here, the horror is prevalent and the comedy is just there and it's an odd mixture that didn't work as well. Although, I'll have to admit, I did laugh out loud numerous times, so I have to give them some credit there.

I guess the bottom line here is give this one a shot. The next time you're in the mood to curl up with your girlfriend or boyfriend, under the covers on a dark, rainy, Saturday night, don't hesitate to turn on this fantastic South Korean monster flick and let the good times roll.

RATING: 7.5/10  By the way, when the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" was updated last year, this one was kicked to the curb. I won't protest that as much as others that were kicked out, but I'm just glad it was in my edition, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have given it a second look.


May 2, 2012  6:02pm

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